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Currently showing posts tagged Haunted House

  • Witchtrap (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Witchtrap (1989)

    Director: Kevin Tenney

    Starring: Linnea Quigley, James Quinn, Kathleen Bailey, Judy Tatum, Hal Havins & Rob Zapple

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Bearing its alternate The Presence title card, Witchtrap, aggressively marketed as not a sequel to 1987’s Witchboard, scares up the screen as Director Kevin Tenney’s most overlooked spooktacular showcase from the wild and waning late 80s.  Afflicted with a reputation for being haunted and further confirmed following an unexplainable death on its grounds, the Lauder House, failing to sell to potential buyers attempts to reinvent itself as a bed and breakfast.  Hired by the property’s inheritor (Tenney in a brief role), a team of paranormal experts, aided by a trio of security operatives, use their tools and know-how to cleanse the home of its sinister evil but find themselves meeting fatal demises the longer they stay.  Boasting charmingly clunky acting and genuinely funny dialogue, Witchtrap delivers a black mass of gory special effects mayhem including, automobile impalements, exploding noggins, a bullet (sans gunfire) through the skull and the always dependable axe to the head.  In addition, scream queen Linnea Quigley reteams with her Night of the Demons helmer for a minor but, wildly memorable role that finds her baring her full assets and landing the film’s highlight death scene with a shower head driven through her neck.  Another low-budget marvel in Tenney’s rolodex of features overrun with possessed partygoers and eerie Ouija boards, Witchtrap keeps the fun rolling well into its final act where smart-assed lone survivor Tony Vincente (James Quinn, Witchboard) goes head to head with the black magic-worshipping entity of Avery Lauder (J.P. Luebsen, also of Witchboard fame) in a ghost busting brawl for the ghoul’s heart.

    Newly scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm interpositive, Vinegar Syndrome presents Witchtrap fully uncut with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Cleansed to perfection while maintaining its filmic integrity, skin tones are highly detailed and warmly accurate while, colors found in the bedrooms of the Lauder House and its surrounding greenery burst with vibrancy.  In addition, the film’s gorier moments are further enhanced by the image’s crispness revealing all the technical team’s efforts.  Lastly, black levels are deeply inky and universally sound, chalking up another flawless restoration for the consistent indie label.  Joined by a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, the film’s dubbed dialogue is handled effectively while its overall usage is occasionally jarring in motion.  Furthermore, the eerie atmospherics and musical underscores are appropriately balanced for a less forceful but nonetheless efficiently pleasing listening experience.

    Packed to the brim with content, special features include, a chatty Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Kevin Tenney, Producer Dan Duncan, Cinematographer Tom Jewett & Actor Hal Havins, several newly recorded interview featurettes including, Making Witchtrap with Kevin Tenney (23:36) who discusses his film school days before exiting once landing the opportunity to helm Witchboard and his other successive features and the hardships of making smaller budgeted films, Acting Witchtrap with Linnea Quigley (13:40) who recounts her chance encounter falling into acting and her creative relationship with Tenney, Shooting Witchtrap: An Interview with Tom Jewett (15:90) plus, Special Effects with Tassilo Baur (17:11).  Additionally, Audio Interviews with Special Makeup Artist Judy Yonemoto (8:18) and Music Composer Dennis Michael Tenney (13:13) are provided along with the Witchtrap Video Trailer (2:55), Book of Joe Short Film directed by Kevin Tenney (23:23) and an Alternate Ending for Book of Joe (3:44).  Lastly, a Production/Promotional Still Gallery (12 in total), DVD Edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art featuring the original and favored VHS poster close out the robust spread of supplements.  A supernaturally splendid hodgepodge from the last breathes of the 1980s featuring a haunted house and buckets of blood, Witchtrap sits proudly next to Tenney’s other cult favorites from the era while earnestly deserving more praise than time has provided for its tightly budgeted and highly entertaining execution in satanic shrieks.  Treating viewers to the missing link in Tenney’s early trifecta of terror, Vinegar Syndrome outdoes themselves with the film’s definitive release.  Perfect in quality and presentation in all its uncut glory, the included bonus features are a staggering sight to behold and a pleasure to be possessed by.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Witchtrap can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Crimson Peak (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Crimson Peak (2015)

    Director: Guillermo del Toro

    Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain & Charlie Hunnam

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the acclaimed director of Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak centers on Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska, Stoker) who after suffering a personal tragedy, falls head over heels for the seductive Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers).  Whisked away to his dilapidated mansion, Edith encounters mysteries and spirits within her new home revolving around her newfound love and the darkest of truths.  Jessica Chastain (The Martian) and Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim) co-star.

    Honoring such classics as The Haunting and The Innocents, Director Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to Gothic Romances and chilling ghost tales is as visually ravishing as it is tragically compelling.  Co-written by Brian Robbins (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark),  Crimson Peak, taking place in the late 19th century, follows independent spirit Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) as she attempts to get her novel published despite her gender.  Juggling responsibilities at her father’s respected business, Edith encounters the dashingly handsome Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) as he attempts to gain investments from Mr. Cushing on his unproven clay-mining invention.  Unimpressed by the privileged baronet and his suspicious sister Lucille (Chastain), Mr. Cushing discovers unsavory details about the siblings, demanding them to return to their homeland despite Thomas’ expressed love for his daughter.  Suffering a heartbreaking tragedy and with no other family remaining, Edith and Thomas are joined together in Holy matrimony before relocating back to the Sharpe’s English mansion.  Haunted by ghostly apparitions and progressively growing more ill, Edith uncovers the house’s darkest secrets while fearing for her life from those now considered loved ones.  Equally concerned for her well-being, longtime friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Hunnam) travels to the imposing Allerdale Hall for a terrifying discovery, one that he and Edith may not survive.

    Dripping with potent atmosphere and unafraid to shock audiences with grizzly imagery despite its classy appearance, Crimson Peak is an exceptional tour de force of gothic cinema.  Empowered by del Toro’s flawless visual touches, the auteur’s haunting romance makes dazzling statements through its rich production design and spot-on wardrobe choices, both of which were astoundingly ignored by the Academy.  Excellently casted, the innocence of Wasikowska, Chastain’s unhinged demeanor and the conflicted emotional state of Hiddleston greatly impress while, the Sharpe’s questionable correlation and eventual reveal sends the film down even darker hallways than anticipated.  Combining onset performers with effective uses of CGI, the film’s predominately blood red ghosts are genuinely frightening with a particular specter paying homage to del Toro’s own The Devil’s Backbone.  Although making modest strides at the box-office and graciously appreciated by critics, Crimson Peak is a beautifully haunting masterpiece that impressively ranks as del Toro’s finest effort to date.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Crimson Peak with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying skin tones with natural ease and well-defined detail, the dreary location of Allerdale Hall and its various lighting choices ranging from reds to blues, are effectively highlighted.  Costume choices, realized by newcomer Kate Hawely (Edge of Tomorrow), read beautifully with various stitching methods and textures easily seen and better appreciated.  Doused in considerable darkness, black levels are quite exquisite in the shadowy halls of the haunted house and Thomas’ jet black attire with no evidence of crushing on display.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is always audible while, quieter ghostly ambiance, rainy wailing winds and Fernando Velázquez’s (The Orphanage, Mama) frightful music queues never disappointing.  Special feature include, an enthralling Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro, Deleted Scenes (4:26), I Remember Crimson Peak (Blu-ray exclusive), a four part featurette consisting of The Gothic Corridor (4:06), The Scullery (4:24), The Red Clay Mines (5:18) and The Limbo Fog Set (5:42) all of which host interviews with del Toro and his remarkable cast.  In addition, A Primer on Gothic Romance (Blu-ray exclusive) (5:36) traces the roots of the genre with the interviewees using their own feature as a springboard, The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak (7:53) spotlights the film’s impressive production design, Hand Tailored Gothic (8:58) (Blu-ray exclusive) details Costume Designer Kate Hawley’s gorgeous contributions, A Living Thing (12:11) (Blu-ray exclusive) explores the artistic efforts designing the haunted Allerdale Hall, Beware of Crimson Peak (7:51) finds Thomas Hiddleston acting as tour guide on a walkthrough of the house and Crimson Phantoms (7:02) (Blu-ray exclusive) takes a look at the film’s unique approaches to its many specters.  Finally, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also included.

    A personal favorite of last year’s theatrical releases and arguably del Toro’s finest achievement yet, Crimson Peak presents an unforgettably haunting experience, respecting the Gothic romances that came before while, delivering a distinct visual feast firmly rooted in the imagination of its maker.  As gorgeously realized as its feature, Universal Studios Home Entertainment delivers an outstanding high-def presentation with a stimulating selection of special features for those who dare to take an extended stay at Allerdale Hall.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Crimson Peak can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Ghosthouse (1988) / Witchery (1988) Blu-ray Review

    Ghosthouse (1988) / Witchery (1988)

    Director(s): Umberto Lenzi / Fabrizio Laurenti

    Starring: Lara Wendel, Greg Scott, Mary Sellers, Ron Houck & Martin Jay / David Hasselhoff, Linda Blair, Catherine Hickland, Annie Ross & Hildegard Knef 

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Released in their home country of Italy as part of the La Casa series, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, invites viewers to a ghostly pairing of terror.  First up, Ghosthouse centers on a group of visitors exploring a deserted house with a dark past.  Before long, the unsuspecting friends find themselves at the mercy of a disturbing little girl and her possessed clown doll.  Next up, Witchery finds an assortment of people stranded on an island resort during a dangerous storm.  With no contact to the mainland, an evil witch begins weaving her dark practices on the unwanted visitors.  David Hasselhoff (Knight Rider), Linda Blair (The Exorcist), Catherine Hickland (One Life to Live), Annie Ross (Pump Up the Volume) and Hildegard Knef (Fedora) star.  

    From Director Umberto Lenzi (Spasmo, Cannibal Ferox) (using the pseudonym Humphrey Humbert), Ghosthouse opens on the deadly tragedy of a couple at the hands of their young daughter.  20 years later, Paul (Greg Scott) and his girlfriend Martha (Lara Wendel, Tenebre) receive a disturbing radio frequency that is traced back to the location of the murders, prompting the couple to investigate.  Upon their arrival, Paul and Martha  meet a group of vacationers who have made the abandoned house their temporary residence.  As supernatural evidence becomes more apparent, the friends are haunted by the ghostly apparition of the murderous little girl and her demonic clown doll.  Predominately consisting of first and only time performers, Ghosthouse suffers from laughable performances and eye-rolling dialogue that overshadows any intended sense of fear.  In addition, while the group is confronted by a series of frightening elements including, a homicidal caretaker, a ferocious Doberman and a severed head in a washing machine, the film fails to use them to its narrative advantage.  As the hauntings begin claiming victims, Paul and Martha rush to uncover the true history behind the house leading to an absurdly nonsensical ending.  While its premise and intriguing poster art fail to live up to their full potential, Ghosthouse still retains a splash of fun rooted in its charmingly awful characters and bizarrely funky score that will viewers bopping their head instead of covering their eyes.

    Utilizing its alternate Witchcraft (Evil Encounters) title, Witchery finds Leslie (Leslie Cumming), along with photographer boyfriend Gary (David Hasselhoff), investigating an abandoned island resort for her upcoming book on witchcraft.  Shortly after, a family of prospective buyers for the property, including the pregnant Jane (Linda Blair), board the island just as the tide grows dangerous.  Stranded, the two groups are forced to remain at the eerie location just as nightmarish visions and the arrival of an evil witch take hold.  While the film tends to overcomplicate its simple plot in favor of more sinister sequences, Witchery excels with its murder set pieces including, a mouth being sewn shut, a neck puncture via stuffed swordfish and a grizzly crucification.  Headlined by notable faces, Hasselhoff and Blair feel nearly wasted as the Knight Rider star spends the bulk of the runtime failing at devirginizing his girlfriend while, Blair is left to endlessly faint before a cash-in possession scene during the film’s fleeting moments.  As the witch’s complicated process of being reincarnated comes full circle, Witchery’s attempts at plot development are too little, too late with its nightmarish imagery serving as the film’s true saving grace.

    Scream Factory presents both Ghosthouse and Witchery with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.66:1 aspect ratios.  Appearing slightly soft with occasional instances of waxy complexions, both films arrive free of any discernible scratches or scuffs making way for  a remarkably clean picture.  In addition, colors are pleasing while black levels are well-handled and visible in more dimly lit scenes.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, both films project dialogue clearly with their respective scores and sound effects decently relayed but never overly impressive.  Finally, special features include, a Ghosthouse Trailer (2:53) and a Witchery Trailer (3:01).

    Continuing their pairing of appropriately themed fright flicks, Scream Factory treats fans to a generous helping of Italian horror with help from possessed clowns, witchcraft and a sexually frustrated Hoff.  While Ghosthouse is a hilarious mess that can be appreciated for its unintentionally funny performances and lack of logic, Witchery ranks as the preferred feature with its death sequences outshining its more prominent cast members.  Meanwhile, Scream Factory delivers both films with appreciable bumps in quality that surpass previous home video releases.  Different strokes for different folks, Ghosthouse / Witchery may not be perfect but, both have their merits worth discovering.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available June 30th from Scream Factory, Ghosthouse / Witchery can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.